The blog of DAVID KOUŘIL

Christmas [Dec 19 – Dec 25]

It was Christmas Day yesterday (24th) in Czech Republic. We have been at my parents’ house with Gabi for two days. We didn’t even try to write, we wanted to take a break from that. But I found out that watching TV all day and eating something all the time is not really for me. I had a good time but I just need to have stuff to do!

I got many presents, for example Raspberry Pi and a knife. I’m really excited to do something with Pi and I wanted the knife because…I don’t know, a guy just should have a good knife.

From tomorrow on, it’s going to be a final sprint towards the submission. I guess we still have some relatives to visit but that should just be a lunch and then back to work. I’m excited. I’m focused on finishing this thing. And after January 4th, I will be a free man again. I already have so much stuff I want to try, learn and do. I want to talk about all my plans and thoughts in next weeks blog post because it’s going to be closer to the end of the year and I really like to look back and plan forward then.

Oh and I bought Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss so I’m reading through that. I’ve read 4-hour work week long time ago and didn’t really follow Tim since then so I’m looking forward to learning something new and maybe getting some new insights and plans.

It is all about the thesis now [Dec 12 – Dec 18]

I feel like there’s not much to blog about. I’m writing all the time. Or at least trying to. I don’t know how is it possible but it seems like I’m staying at the same page count at best. I actually think the more I write the less pages I have. It’s weird.

I had a second chance to pass the test for my last course ever. And I did. What a relief. It wasn’t that difficult, it would probably be even easier if I didn’t forget my calculator. But I passed and that’s what’s really important. It was a test that you need to pass to be able to go to the exam. So now I have one more exam to pass and that’s it for me! Just once will I have to study for an exam and then go there and in one hour or so that will be it for my studies. Well…hopefully, I really want to pass this one on first try. Sure, then there’s the whole thesis defense and final examination to get the degree…but that’s something else. Don’t get me wrong, I had good time at our university, mostly everyone treated me very well and I learned…something. But I just can’t wait to be finished and be able to pursue stuff elsewhere.

To be able to do that however, I have to finish my thesis. I’m working on it. There’s this constant pressure of that deadline. January 4th, 2017. So much stuff to do before that. I’m trying hard not to get stressed by that too much. I’m just trying to work on that as much as I can and I know it’s going to end up somehow. Might not be the best thesis ever written. But it’s going to be something.

Luckily, I have most of Christmas presents sorted out so there’s not much pre-Christmas stress to add to that. Just one more week of going at it hard and then I can rest for 2 or 3 days. I thought that finishing at winter semester is a bad idea because of Christmas but it actually might be a nice excuse to give yourself a break. And then I will still have one week to “crunch”.

A break from thesis writing [week Dec 5 – Dec 11]

No, not in a good way. I wasn’t slacking off this week. My break from writing my thesis was only because I had to work on some other stuff. On a project that I’m employed for at TU Wien. We had a deadline this Friday/Saturday and I spent the whole week working on that. So the last time I touched my thesis was last Sunday. I’m not very happy about that. It’s getting serious.

I can feel the stress on me and Gabi (she’s also submitting this semester). There’s no such thing as weekends for us anymore. And I think we won’t have very relaxed Christmas as well. It’s kinda depressing time period – the deadline is always on our minds and I truly can’t appreciate the winter weather. I wouldn’t say I hate cold. I hate that the day is so short and even throughout the day it’s dark as if it was evening all day long. I get a little bit depressed before Christmas every year and this year all this pressure is not helping.

But…on the bright side – I’m learning so much! This week I’ve implemented something that I wouldn’t even think of trying a year before. I’m really enjoying the feeling that I understand something and I feel like I can create anything I can think of. I want to start all kinds of projects and I’m looking forward to finally submitting the thesis and having time to actually try all that.

I am still going to the gym pretty much every week day and it’s helping me to keep the mood and motivation up at least a little. Well…I actually think it’s helping a lot. Sometimes I really have to force myself but as I’ve already said on this blog – I never regret going. And even when I feel like shit some day, I still know that I’m doing at least this thing right.

Just for this one week… [week Nov 28 – Dec 4]

It’s a motivational technique. Whenever you don’t feel like doing something, you just tell yourself: “I’ll do it just for this time, just for today or just for this week”. When you frame it this way, it’s easier to stick with it because you think that it’s just for this time (although the point is that it never is just for this one time). It’s supposed to work through the barrier of starting something. And once you force yourself to start it’s easier to get hooked on it.

I’ve used it for working out this week. I’ve wanted to start going to the gym every weekday and maybe once on the weekend. But I couldn’t make it three weeks in a row because of traveling. So I said to myself that just this one week I will do it. And I did it. It wasn’t easy; It was actually always sub zero temperatures in the morning when I go to the gym and you don’t want to get out of the bed into this weather. But I said that I’m doing it only for this “perfect” week so I was able to push myself. And I’ve never regretted going. I never ever regret going.

I had a pretty good week overall I would say. No more traveling so I was able to focus on work. I feel like I’m slowly starting to really “get” some stuff that I’ve been studying for over a year. I mean some OpenGL concepts. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been trying to learn it for so long or because I’m finally working on something practical, something where I actually use this knowledge. Hard to say. I’m just really happy that I’m finally getting it and I’m able to create stuff with it.

I’m really getting into writing of my master thesis. It’s not my favorite thing to do but I’m learning a lot about the field and I think I know what the story that I need to capture is. I just hope I will be able to put it together. There’s not a whole lot of time. I thought I could make it before Christmas but as I see it right now, I will for sure be working on it throughout the holidays. It sucks a little but what can I do. In like 2 months it’s going to be all over (hopefully).

Christmas is in like three weeks and that’s crazy. Lots of stuff to finish before that. I just need to really bite into it and try as hard as I can. I’m really excited about all the possibilities and opportunities that are showing up right now and I’m looking forward to acting up on them. But first I really need to finish the school.

Let’s get back into that.

I’m 25 now [week Nov 21 – Nov 27]

Crazy week again! To sum this up: Mathieu got his PhD and I turned 25.

I went to Vienna again this week. I spent the whole Monday and some part of Tuesday making a poster about my master thesis. It wasn’t for any conference or anything, it was just for some internal poster session at our school. I promised to make it maybe like a month ago and I left it for the last moment. The presentation was on Wednesday but because I left to Vienna on Tuesday afternoon, I had my colleague present it. I guess it went alright because the poster is on the wall in the hallway.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I was in Vienna. I was trying to study for a test that I had on Thursday but it didn’t go very well. Mathieu had his PhD defence on Wednesday (that’s why we went to Vienna in the first place) so I was only able to study for few hours in the morning on Wednesday. But anyway…Mathieu got his PhD! I’m not sure if it was possible for him to not get it but I’m very happy for him. He’s somebody that I’ve learned so much from, I got a completely new approach to programming and I’ll be forever grateful for that. He’s working in UK now and I have no doubts that he will be wildly successful in the industry as well.

I had the test on Thursday. It’s the last course that I need to pass and it’s about numerical methods. There is no way I passed, I simply didn’t put enough time into the preparation. But there’s going to be one more chance to pass it and I need to prepare better for it. I’m really looking forward to finishing this last course. I really liked my university at some point but now I just want to get it over with. I found out that I learn stuff way easier and better on my own doing practical projects. I think that there are many problems with the way how education is done on Masaryk University (and maybe I will write about it some day) and I’m excited to finally be free to do it my way.

On Saturday, I turned 25. It doesn’t feel much special to me even though it could be considered a somewhat ’round’ number. Birthdays really lose their charm in your 20s. It used to be such a milestone and something that I was looking forward to very much. It’s not that way now. But I’m not sad about it, I have so many other things that my year revolves around. For example, right now I’m very much looking forward to submitting my thesis and then finishing the school. It’s just something that I need to get done and it’s going to be a huge boulder off my chest once that’s over, successfully I hope.

I’m going to be back in my routine for this whole week (I hope at least) so I want to take full advantage of that. I want to put a lot of work into the thesis and I need to start getting stuff done for the ‘Animated Cell’ project as well.

Moving to Vienna? [week Nov 14 – Nov 20]

I’ve been on a visit in Vienna this week with Bara. We went there for two days, Thursday and Friday. Thursday 17th was actually a public holiday in Czech Republic so I didn’t miss school which is good. We went there because one of the founders of our domain of molecular visualization, Arthur Olson, was visiting the group in Vienna. It was pretty overwhelming I have to say. It looks more and more that we are going to be moving to Vienna after we finish our masters and so I was looking at it a little bit differently. I think there is definitely a difference between thinking about something as a wish or something that might happen some day but when that thing become almost reality, it makes you think about it from other angles as well. I’m not trying to say that I changed my mind – I (and Gabi as well) still want to make the move and I’m looking forward to being a part of VisGroup because it’s a very special place to work at. But on the other hand I realised that I’ve switched onto another kind of life while I was back in Brno. For example, I don’t go out to drink as much as I did before. So I’m a little bit scared that I will either have to change back to that habit and my relationship will suffer (along with the fitness and stuff like that) or I might go against that and maybe become the guy that’s not fun anymore. The thing is that the magic of VisGroup is kind of in the atmosphere and how people stick together. And of course, the social aspect of this is very important in this career. But now that I wrote that down, I know what’s the right option to go for. Of course I want to keep living my life how I like it. I like working but I also like taking care of myself properly, eating healthy, working out and being with Gabi. And I stand by these principles and values. So I think I’ll be fine if I just do my thing and keep it in balance with the social side of working there.

But yeah, I’m pretty excited to be moving to Vienna. For both of us it’s actually a dream to live abroad. But it’s going to be a huge step outside of our comfort zone and that’s always scary. But I keep telling myself that I would regret not trying it. Even if we eventually move back, we will be able to tell ourselves that we tried it. And maybe we will go somewhere else from there. This is what I would probably like the most.

Now that I’ve come to this – I think it’s important for us to think about and write down our expectations, goals and most importantly our reasons for this move. I know it’s gonna get hard some time and I want to be able to remind myself why we did it in the first place. Only that way we can decide if it’s still worth continuing there or not.

But back to my week. I went to gym Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday again. So it’s the second week I wasn’t able to make it 6 days a week. But it’s not entirely my fault! All the travelling is messing up with my plan. I know that I will not be able to do it this week as well because I’m going back to Vienna again on Tuesday till Thursday. I have a test on Thursday so it’s going to be a challenge to squeeze some studying time there.

Arthur Olson in Vienna was great. Very inspiring person. Actually his whole team is inspiring to me and I’m motivated to try hard to be able to contribute as much as they did.

We went to visit my parents on the weekend. I think we haven’t been there for more than a month. I’m a pretty “remote” son I would say although I try to keep in touch with my mum at least over the phone. I think the next time we go there will be for Christmas because we are already very busy and it’s only going to get worse.

That’s basically my week. The plan for next one is pretty set already. I will be finishing a poster for my thesis and then I’m off to Vienna of Tuesday. Test of Thursday, Friday and the weekend will hopefully go towards the thesis itself.

Retreat in Mikulov [week Nov 7 – Nov 13]

Pretty full week.

First of all, I’ve started working out by my new workout plan. I’m supposed to go to the gym 6 times a week. I wasn’t able to do that. But I’m pretty excited about this workout routine. I can already tell the difference between just doing what I feel like at the gym and actually following a plan. The downside is that I’m more tired and I’m hurting more than before but I think it’s just a matter of time until my body gets used to that.

The other interesting thing happening this week was a retreat/meeting in Mikulov with Bara and Jiri from Brno, and a whole bunch of people from Vienna visualization group. It was nice. It was good to see the people. The food was excellent. I feel inspired by the talks. But I really don’t like the drinking. Not that I don’t like to drink and have fun, it’s just that I like to stop at the right time. I don’t feel the need to push it (and feel bad the next day).

I have an idea for a project. It’s a tool that I think could be useful for me and I think I’m gonna try to use it as a toy project to learn Python+PyQt on. The idea is basically this: I have a few projects running at the same time. There are few issues with that – I need to switch between those, I need to keep in my mind what are the next steps for each project and if I close the relevant programs or file I lose track of this project and forget about it. What I have in mind is a tool where I would have clearly listed all the projects that I’m currently working on. There would be some description of the projects and most importantly all the relevant info about it – files that are associated with it, working directories, links to relevant documents, research/design notes. And one feature would be that I could “switch” my environment to that project. What that means is that my tool would close all the running applications on my computer and start programs that are relevant to that one project. For example, when I’m editing a video I want to only have open Premiere, folder with the footage, maybe Spotify… That way I can only focus on what I’m working on. If I want to, for example, work on some programming project later that day, I would switch the environment – the tool would close Premiere and stuff and start up emacs, terminal and documentation instead. Now again, I would have only the programs relevant to that task open. I’m hoping that this approach would help me with couple of things. One of these is that I want to push myself to finish more stuff. I do have ideas for projects all the time but I almost never push them to a finish. I think the problem is that I never clearly define what the “version one” is and what I need to do to get the project there. That could be one of the features – I could define exactly what the first version should contain and then specify other “stretch” features.

I don’t know how realistic this workflow is and if it will actually help me focus better and be more productive but I think it’s worth a try. At the very least, I will learn a little bit more of Python and GUI programming with PyQt.

Winter time change and sniffles [week Oct 31 – Nov 6]

The title sums it up. Last Sunday the time has changed, going back one hour. What that means is that it’s getting dark sooner and, in theory, the dawn is one hour earlier. But in practice the time of the year, when you go to work at dark and come home from work at dark, starts. That sucks. I know, complaining about weather is meaningless but still. I don’t like winter (to put it lightly).

I didn’t workout a lot this week because I didn’t feel perfectly healthy. I think I went of Monday and then on Saturday. But I have a new gym card for November and I plan on using it as much as I can. So far I’ve been going to the gym 3 times a week and I didn’t really have a workout plan. I just did what I felt like. I want to change that. Few weeks ago, I’ve seen a workout plan on reddit and I think I’m going to try that one out. I’ll see how it goes. I want to try going to the gym 6 times a week. I like it anyway, it always picks up my mood when I workout in the morning and I feel way more productive for the rest of the day. So that’s how I plan to fight this depression-inducing time of the year.

Master Thesis Status

  • # of pages: 19
  • word count: 4258 (I’m writing the thesis in TeX using TeXstudio so I counted it as instructed here, don’t know if it’s the right way, hope so)

I’ve been writing a lot more to my Master thesis. I’m understanding the story that I want to tell better and better and I think it’s going well so far. I’m still not even in half (I’m somewhere around 19 pages; 40 pages is the goal page count) but I feel like I’m getting there at a solid pace. I just hope some other responsibilities won’t accumulate which would slow down this pace.

I’m going to be in Mikulov on Thursday and Friday next week. We are going for a scientific meeting/socializing with the group from Brno and the group from Vienna. Hope it’s going to be nice.

Penny boarding in the park [week Oct 24 – Oct 30]

The picture is again from Saturday when me and Gabi went for a walk/ride on my pennyboard. I’m trying to enjoy the weather as much as I can. If it’s even just a little sunny outside we go for a walk. Soon it will be just cold and depressing winter here in Czech Republic. It wouldn’t be so bad if it snowed at least but I don’t think that we can expect that in November/December.

I wrote a few tasks for this week so let’s take a look at that first:

  • finish my SSAO implementation
    • Not completely done but I definitely pushed it further.
  • use it in both work and personal projects
    • I did integrate it in both frameworks, it’s just that it needs more tweaking.
  • write as much of my master thesis as I can
    • Nope. I didn’t write nearly as much as I would like to.
  • go to the gym 3 times
    • Yes! Did Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and a little workout at home on Sunday.
  • stretch: post at least 3 times on instagram (generative/procedural/interactive pieces done with Cinder)
    • Kinda. I did one prototype but I really liked it.

I spent a lot of time working from home and even though I feel like I work all the time, at the end of the week it just doesn’t feel like I did that much. I think I’m going to switch back to coming to the office. I am especially sad that I didn’t write much for my thesis. That’s why I’m starting a new part of the weekly blog post called “Master Thesis Status”:

Master Thesis Status

  • # of pages: 15 (a lot of it is just headline with blank page)
  • word count: 2393 (I’m writing the thesis in TeX using TeXstudio so I counted it as instructed here, don’t know if it’s the right way, hope so)

I met with a friend on Wednesday. I haven’t talked to her in a while so we caught up. I can think of maybe 3 people with whom I like to talk about motivation, inspiration and self-improvement and she’s one of them. I feel pretty motivated these days. I have a few ideas of what I think contribute to that. First, I really really find that exercising regularly helps a lot. I’m still not completely used to it as a habit; I still sometimes consider not going when I don’t feel like it and think that it’s just too much work to get into it and that it would just be struggle if I go to the gym. But I’m mostly good at persuading myself to go through with it and not once have I regretted it. It’s exactly the opposite, after the exercise I feel great and I’m more motivated to work on tasks and problems. My mind slowly learns that exercise actually makes my mood better. Also, it helps to go to the gym first thing in the morning. I usually get up, function on autopilot and before I’m completely awake I’m already in the gym. Second, the thought that in 3 months or so I can potentially be done with school forever is a huge motivation for me. It’s just two more months of writing the thesis and then one month of studying for the final exams and that’s it! I don’t really care about the degree, I just really want to finish this thing that I once started. There is a huge chance that I will be staying in academia so it’s not like I would be completely done with the university environment but at least I will have finished the basic portion of that. But I need to translate this motivation into actions.

One last though that I wanted to share. I’ve always struggled with the mid-day fatigue. I think programmers are really susceptible to it – I frequently get stuck on some problem that I don’t know how to solve and then it’s hard to keep at it for longer periods of time. You start to feel really tired and it’s like there is a curtain in front your eyes and it’s hard to even just read the code. Before, I would just try to push it and force myself to work even though that wouldn’t work most of the time. Now I found that it’s better to just get up and go outside. Go for a walk, buy something for a snack or go run some errands. Just get away from the computer and, even better, from the building. I now do this even when I’m at home and I feel tired and I’m thinking if I should take a nap. I go for a walk instead and that restores my energy level somehow with the benefit of not breaking my sleep schedule.

That’s the weekly blog post! Tasks for next week:

  • workout at least 3 times
  • go work to the office every day.

I don’t like this weather [week Oct 17 – Oct 23]

The title is a little misleading because of the picture under it. That’s NOT the weather I don’t like. This picture is from Saturday which was the only day where the sun came out in Brno. We went for a coffee and a walk outside. Got coffee from Kofi-Kofi and walked around in the park under Spilberk castle. It was nice.

Besides Saturday, the weather was awful the whole week. I really hate it – you don’t see the sun, the sky is grey all the time, you wake up and it feels like it’s 7pm and you’re supposed to go to sleep again. And for a few days it was also raining constantly. Hate it. Despite that, I had a pretty busy week. I went to gym only twice (I’ll be better next week, promise). Ivan, my supervisor from Vienna, came to Brno so we went out on Tuesday with him and the group. On Wednesday we sat down with him and Bara and talked about my Diploma thesis. Also on Wednesday, my sister Zuzana had her graduation ceremony. So me and Gabi went there with my parents, grandma and uncle. We also went for a lunch afterwards and I made a mistake of having a beer which totally killed my productivity for the rest of the day. Thursday and Friday was quite productive – I had lectures for my (last) course and I worked before and after that. I’m implementing SSAO for both my personal project and work project. I realized that I still have a lot to learn about shaders and graphics programming. I’m getting better but still…I suck.

I’m trying out a new time management thing – I plan my day beforehand, planning around the events that I need to attend and try to fill the gaps with “work blocks”. I aim for 1.5 hour work blocks and in these I’m trying to focus on one concrete things or task. I guess it could be called pomodoro technique (a little modified). My reason for doing it this way is that I don’t realize how little time I actually have. I feel like I have a whole day to work with but when I can do the work any time of the day I end up not accomplishing much. There is also another thing about this – I postpone starting stuff because I don’t want to be interrupted by something. So I don’t do anything unless I have a lot of time. But that’s completely wrong way of looking at it. Now when I know that I have work block in my calendar, I know when I will be working (and what I’ll be working on). One and a half hour is enough to make some progress. And another benefit is that when I see that my day has only 3 or 4 work blocks for example (because of other events) it makes me want to use that time well. Which helps me to focus on solving problems and tasks at hand without postponing them thinking I have the whole day for them.

That’s the week! Tasks for the next week:

  • finish my SSAO implementation
  • use it in both work and personal project
  • write as much of my master thesis as I can
  • go to the gym 3 times
  • stretch: post at least 3 times on instagram (generative/procedural/interactive pieces done with Cinder)